Spring election 2024: Salem Lakes trustee candidates Q&A

Voters in Salem Lakes have a contested race for village trustee on the spring election ballot.

Appearing on the April 2 ballot will be:

  • Dennis Faber, an incumbent
  • Ron Gandt, an incumbent
  • Bill Hopkins, an incumbent
  • Peter Poli.

The individuals with the three highest vote totals will be elected to the three seats to be filled. Voters will be able to cast three votes.

The same questionnaire was submitted by westofthei.com to each candidate by email.

Here is their biographical information followed by their question responses, presented in alphabetical order:

Dennis Faber — Age: No answer given; Education: Riverview Grade, Wilmot High, KTI, Associate Degree in Marketing and University of Wisconsin (UWSP) & DNR & Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, Graduate Lake Leaders Institute. Occupation: Semi-retired, Sales and Marketing Consulting, former Direct Marketing, Catalog and Retail Buyer, Board Member, Gander Mountain Inc. General Manager R. D. Larson Sports DBA Herter’s a multiple retail store sporting Goods Company, Heavy Construction equipment sales for Howell Tractor & Equipment Co. and McAllister Equipment Co. Previous elected or appointed public office: Appointed to the Town of Salem Board in August 2003 and served in that capacity until April 2017, Village of Salem Lakes Trustee April 2018 to present. Camp, Center Lake Rehabilitation District and Voltz Lake Management District Board member. Former Secretary, Silver Lake Sportsman’s Club and Trap Committee Treasurer.

Ron Gandt — Age: 71; Education: High School; Occupation: Self-employed contractor; Previous elected or appointed public office: Along with my present Trustee position, I have been on Parks and Recreation, Planning and zoning as well as Board of Appeals.

Bill Hopkins — Age: 69; Education: Occupation: 20 Year Retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer; Retired Pharmaceutical Senior Manager Abbott Laboratories/Hospira; Previous elected or appointed public office: Incumbent Salem Lakes Village Trustee – 2017-Present, Kenosha County Civil Service Commission – 2024-Present, Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission -2017- Present, Silver Lake Management District Board – 2023-Present, Community Library Board – 2017-2023, Riverview School Board Member & Board President -1996-1999.

Peter Poli — Age: 51; Education: College of Lake County; Occupation: Business owner; Previous elected or appointed public office: Village of Salem Lakes Chairperson Board of Appeals.

1). Why are you the best candidate for Salem Lakes trustee?

Faber — Today, the Village has a new President, three new trustees. A new Administrator and new Finance Director/Treasurer who will start in April. Over these years as an elected official, I have a successful track record working with our board members, neighboring municipalities, lake organizations, the county, the DNR and securing many thousands of dollars’ in DNR grants. I have also been asked by one of our new trustees to stay involved to pass along my knowledge and history of successes and failures to benefit our new leaders with these experiences. If elected, I look forward to doing just that. Over the years I have gained the name Mr. Lakes from board members and others. I have personally written and participated in securing grants such as our Nelson Knowles grant of $546,049 for our Community Park and Lake District grants totaling over $400,000. Because of this knowledge I want to do something other candidates may not have the experience of doing. I want to pursue establishing a (NO TAX) Village Lakes Committee and have a representative from each lake organization on the committee. The goals are to update the village’s ordinance Chapter 330, Lakes and Waterways which are outdated, address invasive aquatic species and possibly combine services these lake organizations currently contract for, so they can possibly save money. Another goal is to have the committee become familiar with obtaining Recreational Lake Grants to offset the cost of lake studies and rehabilitation plans, as well as update our village boat sticker policy. In summary, this young village needs representation that is experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated and always available. I have that experience, dedication and reputation and am committed to passing along these experiences and knowledge if elected, to help others keep making the Village of Salem Lakes a safe, great place, to live and raise a family.

Gandt — With my previous appointments to other boards and committees within the Village it gave me a great understanding of what goes on in the Village. Being a lifelong resident and local businessman, I know the area and what it takes to make major decisions. I have worked with Parks and Recreation to implement our new pickle ball courts and a walking trail. I have worked on our golf cart ordinance and most recently put together an ATV ordinance that will be implemented upon installation of signage.

Hopkins — I am the best candidate for Salem Lakes trustee because since 2017 there is not a trustee that has worked harder, come to meetings more prepared and is more intentional and deliberate for the residents and business owners of Salem Lakes than I have been. My record and work ethic while serving as a trustee, and in the other positions and roles I have held speaks for itself. I have always and will always represent the residents of Salem Lakes with integrity, honesty, and forward thinking. I worked tirelessly these last two years navigating and leading during the process of dealing with the overreach of our previous Fire Chief and Inspector. I continued advocating for the residents by expressing and pushing concerns with the previous administration both in open and closed sessions. I worked directly with the business owners in the village to do whatever I could to best support them and ensure they were being treated fairly as well. I have always shown up and supported our residents regardless of their concerns and will continue to do so. I have and will continue to represent my constituents fairly and honestly. As I always have, I will continue to work tirelessly to keep taxes low while also ensuring we have the highest quality emergency services, thriving strategic business development and growth within our village, and I will continue to champion our small-town culture by supporting the Park Commission and the many opportunities they provide for our families in Salem Lakes.

Poli — I have always been drawn to work with community members for the greater good. In years past I served as the president of the Racine Kenosha Beekeepers Association and prior to that I served as a both a board member and then President of the Northern Illinois Conservation Club. Just a few years ago I lead a grassroots effort regarding a pending chicken keeping ordinance where I took action to set up meetings with interested Salem Lakes residents and come up with an ordinance allowing chicken keeping on residential properties. We presented our information and the board chose something much more restrictive which excluded properties under 15000 sq ft. This left those residents without the ability to keep chickens.  I decided then that I would eventually seek a seat as a trustee to give the people of Salem Lakes an opportunity to be listened to. I feel now is the time to run for Village of Salem Lakes Trustee and hopefully the voters agree.

2). What do you see as the chief issues faced by the Village Board and how would you address them if elected?

Faber — Number one is regaining the respect of our business community. I was told there were just a few businesses that were upset with fire inspections. Unfortunately, that assessment was wrong. Before the last election I suggested hiring an expert in the field of fire inspection but was emphatically told, no, by the fire chief, that the board did not
have that authority. It was up to the fire chief, and he was not going to make a change. This has resulted in major changes in the village. Many good things are happening however, our new president in my opinion, is doing an excellent job carrying out her (new to her) duties. Our new trustees have shown they have worked diligently studying
the issues and our new administrator has found cost savings by contracting with different insurance providers, office machine leases, a different Ambulance billing company and redoing other contracts to produce savings, to date totaling over $300,000 annually. The next issue in my opinion is the village needs employees, like many businesses,
manufacturers and construction trades today. We need firefighters, EMS and highway/utility workers. Please visit our website to see excellent employment opportunities. I would like to thank our village newcomers and it’s old timers for your support over the years as well as your consideration for this term. So if elected, my experiences gained over these year can contribute to helping our Young Village with all the exciting new challenges that are before us. Thanks again for your support.

Gandt —  Looking ahead with our new Administration and Department heads to make Salem Lakes a great place to live, play and enjoy our Lakes. We need more development in both residential and commercial. The infrastructure we have is in constant need of attention along with some major upgrades.    

Hopkins — There are several chief issues that our Village Board currently faces. First, we must gain the trust of the community back after the destructive last few years we have had. Although I served during that time, I fought for the residents of Salem Lakes in closed and open sessions to ensure accountability and transparency were at the forefront. Through the work of our Village Board and Village Administrator, we have identified areas of improvement on a day-to-day operating level. I will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure fiscal responsibility, transparency, and effective leadership. Secondly, in terms of emergency services, I will champion the implementation of two fully staffed, 24/7 Fire Stations. Under the leadership of our current interim Fire Chief, we are working to ensure that we have a fully staffed fire department consisting of highly qualified Firefighter/Paramedics. It is essential that we continue to improve our already competent and highly trained Firefighter/Paramedics. We must promote, encourage, and provide the best leadership, training, and equipment possible for our Fire Department so that we are a department that other municipalities look to model and one that provides the greatest protection possible. Third, it is essential that we develop a business strategy for growth by identifying business types and locations suitable for current and future opportunities. We need to complete the building of the existing business parks within the village. By doing
so, we will be increasing the tax base which can allow for taxes staying low for families.

Poli — I actually see the board and village as a whole currently moving in a positive direction but with a bit  more work yet to be done. There are definitely items that need to be addressed such as infrastructure review and improvements to be done in a fiscally responsible way. Right now our sanitary sewer system is only being reviewed if there is an area that is slated for road rehabilitation. We need to be cleaning and performing video  inspection on our sewer collection system  in a strategic format. We could also use more focus on community gathering areas that are accessible by walking/biking and are located in the town centers. That having been stated our Village could also benefit from more access to walking/biking trails that link  Salem, Silver Lake, Trevor, and Wilmot together which by it self could be the very thing that breathes new life into our dying “downtown” storefront areas. It is my belief that focusing on community development will improve the quality of life for the residents of the Village which can lead to more business opportunities and greater prosperity for all of us within and adjacent to our little slice of Wisconsin.

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